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Date [ 2013-06-21, 15:10 ]

The future looks bleak today for these Muslims

More violence, this time by the Rohingya.

(Kuala Lumpur =Koreanpress) by Ramani Rathir =News of Rohingya Muslims being persecuted in Myanmar and fleeing the country appears quite often in today’s newspapers. But the Rohingya have been having the hard end of the stick for a very long time,

Though there are Muslims from India, Arabia and China in Myanmar, the Myanmar government seems to have targeted the Rohingya. According to Human Rights Watch the Burmese government has denied citizenship to any Rohingya persons who cannot prove their ancestors settled in the country before 1823, the beginning of British occupation of what is now Arakan, now they are barred from having more than two children per married couple.


Early History

Mistrust of the Muslims started in early Myanmar history. The first Muslim documented in Burmese history (recorded in Hmannan Yazawin or Glass Palace Chronicle) was Byat Wi during the reign of Mon, a Thaton King, circa 1050 AD.The two sons of Byat Wi's brother Byat Ta, known as Shwe Byin brothers, were children executed because they refused to obey the forced labour order of the king, maybe because of their religious belief. It was clearly recorded in the Glass Palace Chronicle of the Kings of Burma that they were no longer trusted.

Rahman Khan (Nga Yaman Kan) was another Muslim killed for political reasons, because of treason to his own king and also clearly as religious persecution. During a time of war, King Kyansittha sent a hunter as a sniper to assassinate him.

A Rohingya house being burned during the riots
Muslims served under Burmese king Bayintnaung (1550-1589 AD). In 1559 AD after conqueringPegu) he prohibited the Muslims from having
halal meals of goats and chickens by not allowing them to kill these animals in the name of Allah. He also disallowed the Eid ul Adha, Kurbani, sacrifice of cattle.

On the other hand, King Bodawpaya (1782–1819) arrested four famous Burmese Muslim Maulvis (Imams) from Myedu and killed them in Ava, the capital, after they refused to eat pork. According to the Myedu Muslims there were seven dark days after that execution and the king later apologized and recognized them as saints.

Under British Rule, anti-Indian and anti-Muslim sentiments began. Looking at the Muslims during this time, there was a half million of them in 1921. More than half of Indians were Indian Muslims.] Although Burmese Muslims are different from Indian Muslims and Indian Burmese Muslims, Burmese Buddhists put them together, even with Hindu Indians, and called them Kala.

 The root of these actions wasdue to earlier Muslim persecution of Buddhists and Hindus during the Mughal wars of conquest, where many Buddhists and Hindus were forcibly converted.

In 1938 anti-Muslim riots began while Burma was still under British rule. The real agenda was aimed at the British government but the Burmese dared not show this openly. Growing nationalistic sentiments were fanned by the local media and disguised as anti-Muslim to avoid early detection. It was followed by the full-blown force of the mighty British Government machinery. Throughout the Burmese struggles against British rule, all the political issues, movements, meetings, demonstrations, riots, rebellions and even the revolutions were instigated, inspired, influenced and led by newspapers.


 Burma for Burmese

The Burmese started the Burma for Burmese only campaign and marched to the Muslim Bazaar. While the Indian Police broke the violent demonstration, three monks were hurt. Burmese newspapers used the pictures of Indian police attacking the Buddhist monks to further incite the spread of riots. Muslim properties: shops, houses and mosques were looted, destroyed and burned. The assault and even massacre of Muslims spread all over Burma and a recorded 113 mosques were damaged

The period after WWII had many Burmese and Burmese Muslim parties evolving, one of which was the Burma Muslim Congress (BMC). As independence approached, the BMC was dissolved.

 When General Ne Wincame to power in 1962, the status of Muslims changed. They were expelled from the army.  Burma has a Buddhist majority and the Muslims had to make a choice. It had the more pious Muslim communities segregating themselves and therefore faced greater difficulties than those who integrated more at the cost of observance to Islamic personal laws.


Today’s Muslims

These are affected by the actions of Islamic extremism in other countries. Violence in Indonesia perpetrated by Islamists is used as a pretext to commit violence against Muslim minorities in Burma.] The anti-Buddhist actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan (the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan) was also used as a pretext to commit violence against Muslims in Myanmar by Buddhist mobs.

Religious freedom for Muslims is reduced. Monitoring and control of Islam undermines the free exchange of thoughts and ideas associated with religious activities. Accusations of "terrorism" are made against Muslim organizations such as the All Burma Muslim Union. It is widely feared that persecution of Muslims in Myanmar could foment Islamic extremism in the country.]Many Muslims have joined armed resistance groups who are fighting for greater freedoms in Myanmar.


The Spill-Over

Since March 2013, riots have flared up in various cities in central and eastern Myanmar. The violence has coincided with the rise of the "Buddhist 969" movement. Led by extremist monk U Wirathu, "969" has been tied to conspiracies and attacks against Muslim communities. Burmese-Buddhist monk Shin Thawbita was brutally assaulted, his genitals cut and burnt alive by some Muslims in Meikhtilar on March 5, 2013.

In the second quarter of this year, news of Rohingya being persecuted and attacked in Myanmar has caused a backlash in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

A riot in an Indonesian detention centre broke out, not for religious reasons but on rape and sexual assault on three Rohingya women. Although a report was made to the authorities no action was taken against the perpetrators beyond a reprimand and a slap on the cheek, according to the police report. The result was eight Burmese Buddhists killed by a mob of Muslims, with all five men implicated in the three cases of rape and sexual assault killed in the brawl. Although not religious in nature, it highlights the racial hatred between the two groups.

However in Thailand, the Rohingya have been crowded into camps with living conditions quickly turning squalid. The Thai government says it cannot take in any more. More than 30,000 now languish in camps.

But in Malaysia the Rohingya have formed enclaves for themselves in some parts of the capital, Kuala Lumpur. They dominate the wholesale market in Selayang. Their Buddhist countrymen are more in city centres where they have opened up mini-super markets, grocery shops, travel agencies, video outlets and restaurants.

Violence against the Rohingya flared in their home state of Rakhine about a year ago. It started with having about 200 people being killed. As the chaos flared up, it began to spill over into Malaysia. Last year was the start but drew little attention, until now.

It has the Myanmese Buddhists living in fear for they believe the Rohingya are out to get them in reptilian for what is happening back home. One example is of a knifing in a busy Kuala Lumpur street. The crowd of Malaysians informed the Myanmese Buddhist was stabbed by two Rohingya who then ran off. It was all done in a flash and witnesses could not give much information beyond they were Rohingya,

In the past month, two Buddhist Myanmese were killed and another two were critically injured in seven separate clashes in and around Kuala Lumpur.

Maung Hla, the Chairman of the Burma Refugee Organisation in Malaysia, informed with a worried look, “We are very worried. We do not feel safe anymore. Anything can happen at any time. These attacks in Malaysia are because of trouble in Myanmar. You can say the Rohingya are taking revenge on us, here in Malaysia,"

One fatal attack that took place was in Ampang, a district on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. A Buddhist Myanmese described it as "The victim was attacked by 10 men carrying machetes, while he was sleeping in a car. Two more who were with him in the car, managed to run away.”

 Mg Kyaw has been working in the construction industry for the past three years. But he has told his boss not to renew his work permit. He informed, “My friends were supposed to join me next month, but they have cancelled their visas.” Another community leader added, “Many Myanmese workers have already gone back home. Others are ready to leave Malaysia soon. News of this has reached Myanmar and now many of my people do not want to come here.”

Recent reports have emerged that the majority of senior monks in Myanmar want peace. In two days of talks between more than 200 monks at a monastery near Yangon, the Buddhist clerics reiterated they are for peace and feel the media has tarnished their image with overblown allegations that monks were leading the attacks.

In Malaysia, while the disturbances between the Muslims and Buddhists has been highlighted, little has been said about the camaraderie that exists between some of the two groups. U Thant, working in a wet market revealed that,” My friend is driven to work daily by his Muslim friend as he is concerned for his safety. "

One Rohingya refugee leader denied his countrymen were behind the recent attacks. “You must know we are a minority here," said Alua Abdullah, “so how can we get into fights. We left so much violence behind, now we just want peace.”

There are close to 95,000 Myanmese refugees now living in Malaysia. Of these, at last count, 28,120 are made up of Rohingya. These are figures supplied by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.abc@koreanpress.net

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